One of the few proven ways to extend the maximum life span (as opposed to the mean life span) of laboratory animals has been caloric restriction (CR). CR has been shown to extend maximum life span of animals up to 80%! Human research finds similar benefits of improved health and vigor, but comparable life-span research in humans has not been conducted. Those involved in the Biosphere II experiment were an example of human CR research.
The big question has been why does CR extend life span. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds some light on this question. The study gives clues as to how CR actually reverses aging. The hope would be to eventually find ways to harness the biological effects of CR without having to eat less. This new study may be an important step in that direction.
The Life Extension Foundation has published an interview with a researcher in the new study, Dr Stephen Spindler:
Reversing Aging Rapidly with Short-Term Calorie Restriction
Life Extension Foundation-funded Research Breakthrough Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
An Interview with Stephen R. Spindler, Ph.D.
On Tuesday, Sep. 4th, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) web site features a paper from the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Spindler, who has been probing the life-extending effects of calorie restriction using advanced gene chip technology. (For an explanation of gene chip studies of aging, please see our interview with Drs. Tomas Prolla and Richard Weindruch in the November, 1999 issue of Life Extension Magazine.) Dr. Spindler examined aging changes in the expression of 11,000 genes and the modification of these changes by calorie restriction. The major conclusions from this study are that many of the life extension effects of calorie restriction happen rapidly, and that these effects can be shown not only in young animals, but also in old animals not previously on calorie restriction. Calorie restriction not only slows aging and extends maximum life span, but it partially reverses aging changes as well! On top of that, the fact that calorie restriction acts rapidly means that, for the first time, it is possible to test anti-aging interventions in weeks rather than years, which should drastically accelerate the search for anti-aging treatments. Dr. Spindler, who is a professor at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California at Riverside and works for a company called LifeSpan Genetics, was interviewed about his results by Dr. Gregory M. Fahy and by Life Extension Foundation founder and president Saul Kent on August 17th, 2001.
Life Extension: Dr. Spindler, what is the essence of your new observations, which are just coming out in PNAS?
Stephen Spindler: I think the conclusion you can reach from the paper is that even in very old animals, caloric restriction will very rapidly produce most of the gene expression effects that you see in long-term calorie-restricted animals. That means, I think, that even in the short-term, older people may be able to benefit rapidly from switching to a calorically-restricted diet, and that fits with some of the information that has been in the literature for years. For instance, type II diabetics improve when they start under-eating. Their blood glucose levels improve. Their insulin sensitivity improves. Their general health improves, even before the fat mass, for instance, is depleted. So, there have been some hints that underfeeding could produce positive effects rather rapidly, but this research that we are publishing shows this for the first time, directly, using gene expression profiles as biomarkers for the effects of caloric restriction.
November 22, 2001